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The Collapsing Protestant Empire


First, Billy Graham's son gets stiffed by the Pentagon.

Then President Obama pencils in Elena Kagan as his nomineee for the Supreme Court lineup and guess what? Another non-Protestant.

Things are looking gloomy in Reformation Land. The numbers have been dropping steadily in most of the old denominations and evangelicals aren't doing much better. Particular congregations show signs of life; the larger structures generally don't.

The nation's religious identity is obviously shifting, for better or worse, farther from the legacy of the Pilgrims toward a genuine hodge-podge of traditions where nobody is in charge.

This comes as bad if not surprising news to the old guard of Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Southern Baptists. The torch seems to be passing from them to nobody in particular right before their eyes.

While many Protestant leaders are resigned to this turn of fortune as appropriate to democratic pluralism, others warn that the loss of Christianity's exclusive grip could cost the nation its soul.

A First Thought on Kagan


President Obama is set to name Elena Kagan as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. One of the conservative memes about Obama is that he is "the most pro-abortion president in history." This meme was first begun by Princeton Professor Robert George who has traded in his professorial aloofness from the political realm by starting a Washington-based advocacy group, the American Principles Project, although a quick visit to their website will show that he is now more concerned with politics than principles and utterly dismissive of those parts of the American experience that do not comport with his agenda.

Naming Pell to Bishops would be a landmark move



tI’m in Rome at the moment, preparing to leave early Tuesday on Pope Benedict XVI’s May 11-14 swing in Portugal. Ecclesiastically speaking, Rome is very much a company town, so speculation about who’s in line for what job is always in the air. These days attention is focused on possible successors to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who’s held the job for the last ten years and who is now 76.

tRecently, the well-connected Italian Vatican writer Andrea Tornielli reported that Pope Benedict XVI has found his man for the job at the Congregation for Bishops: Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia. Pell, who’ll turn 69 in early June, has been the Archbishop of Sydney since 2001 and a cardinal since 2003.

tTrying to predict appointments is a notoriously hazardous enterprise, and until the daily bollettino from the Holy See Press Office appears with Pell’s name on it, nothing’s for sure. Yet if Pell is indeed the new prefect, it would be a landmark move for at least four reasons.

Clapping for Sister Carol


Sometimes applause is just applause. There is applause that is polite. There is the applause at the end of the singing of the National Anthem. There is the applause from members of Congress when the President says something nice about apple pie or calls attention to the First Lady.

Then there are those moments when a group of people want to express their profound admiration and love for someone and, given the context, the only manner that seems suitable to express those feelings is with applause, even though it does not come close to expressing the depth of feeling. This was the kind of applause that greeted Sister Carol Keehan at NCR’s “Washington Briefing” when she was introduced this morning. The room rose as one. The applause was loud, not to say raucous, and it was sustained.

Arizona, immigration and the need for federal action


I read with great interest the remarks of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, encouraging church leaders to preach on immigration reform as an issue of justice. She’s right, and it could have an important effect.

After all, religious leaders have long spoken out for reform, but many of the people in the pews (and in the polls) have yet to hear the message!

Schˆnborn attacks Sodano, urges reform


In the latest issue of The Tablet of London:

Schönborn attacks Sodano and urges reform

The head of the Austrian Church has launched an attack of one of the most senior cardinals in the Vatican, saying that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, “deeply wronged” the victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy when he dismissed media reports of the scandal. In a meeting with editors of the main Austrian daily newspapers last week, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, also said the Roman Curia was “urgently in need of reform”, and that lasting gay relationships deserved respect. He reiterated his view that the Church needs to reconsider its position on re-married divorcees.

John Zogby's presentation at NCR Washington Briefing


John Zogby, the president and CEO of Zogby International, the global polling company, presented the results of his company's latest survey of American Catholics' beliefs and attitudes today during a lunch time presentation to participants of "Washington Briefing for the Nation’s Catholic Community," cosponsored by Trinity Washington University and National Catholic Reporter.


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In This Issue

October 21-November 3, 2016

  • Reformation's anniversary brings commemorations, reconsiderations
  • Picks further diversify College of Cardinals
  • Editorial: One-issue obsession imperils credibility
  • Special Section [Print Only]: SAINTS